DC fifth graders learn about Norway

Waffles, heart ornaments, and chocolate sweeten the Embassy Adoption Program

Embassy Adoption Program Norway

Photo: John Olsen
Fifth-grade students from Burrville Elementary gather around the tree they decorated during a visit from the Royal Norwegian Embassy last December.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington is participating again this year in the popular Embassy Adoption Program, a partnership between the District of Columbia public schools and the Washington Performing Arts Society. Interested fifth- and sixth-grade teachers may apply for this program. A class is then adopted by one of the participating embassies.

Angela Isom’s fifth-grade class at Burr­ville Elementary School was paired with the Embassy of Norway. Urd Milbury, the Embassy’s representative, has been working with this very enthusiastic group of children, who are eager to participate in all of the activities she plans for them.

When Urd arrived at the school for her first visit, she was given a very warm welcome. The children were holding a large “Welcome” banner and vigorously waving little Norwegian flags.

In the fall, the children enjoyed taking part in “Waffle Night.” They were treated to traditional Norwegian waffles covered with a layer of sour cream and then one of strawberry jam. They declared the waffles very delicious!

Just before the holidays, Urd went to the school with a Norwegian craft activity. She brought along three helpers, her two children, Odin and Freya, and Odin’s friend Maxwell.

She began by telling the children that they were going to create small, heart-shaped paper baskets. Norwegian children make these special ornaments to decorate their Christmas trees. She then gave a demonstration of how to make them.

Next, she and her helpers distributed the materials to the children who then made baskets out of the circles and strips of colorful Christmas wrapping paper that she had prepared in advance. They folded the circles into the shape of a heart, sealed them with glue, and glued on the handles.

Embassy Adoption Program Norway

Photo: John Olsen
Urd Milbury helps students fold their heart-shaped baskets.

They became more excited at the next step, and the chatter level undeniably increased. They were given a box full of many different stickers, which they used creatively to decorate their baskets. Last of all, they were provided with boxes of gems and glitter. They went all out with these items. The final products were stunning!

A small tree was brought to the center of the room and quickly decorated with their small baskets. The children looked at the tree with a delighted sense of pride.

A very animated question-and-answer period followed the craft activity, led by Odin and Freya. The children asked many questions about the schools, the weather, and holidays in Norway. They were very surprised at most of the answers. Here is some of what they learned.

Embassy Adoption Program Norway

Photo: John Olsen
The students had prepared for the visit by learning about Norway and decorating the classroom door with facts about the country.

Norwegian children only have five hours of school every day and have recess every 45 minutes. But they have only one month of summer vacation. They bring their own lunches to school from home, and they are not allowed to bring any unhealthy food. They have lots of snow but never have snow days. They play outside a lot all year round.

In some places in Norway the sun disappears for three months in the winter.

There is no Thanksgiving in Norway. But Norwegians have holidays that Americans don’t have. They celebrate, for example, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Halloween was not a holiday in Norway until recently, and it is now a big deal.

Freya said that she thought that Norwegian candy was much better than American candy. One child asked if Norwegian children had Twix. When Freya told them that they didn’t, the children exclaimed with surprise, “What? No Twix??”

After the Q&A, Urd showed the children a short Norwegian cartoon with no dialogue. When she asked the children afterwards what the message of the film was, many of them offered very insightful comments.

Odin then explained what he was wearing on the cord around his neck. It was a small reflector in the shape of a moose. He explained that, when he wears it, he can be seen in the dark. Norwegian children always wear one of these reflectors or reflective clothing when they are outside after dark to keep them safe. He thinks it is strange that Americans do not have this custom as well.

Before leaving, Urd and her helpers gave each child a goodie bag with Norwegian chocolate. It was a sweet ending to a very enjoyable morning.

The children are now looking forward to their January field trip, a visit to the Edvard Munch exhibit at the National Gallery, and learning more about Norway.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 12, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.